As an owner, you may wonder if your dog is overweight or if he/she is underweight. There may be fluctuations that cause a dog to tip into either of the categories or there may be a weight concern that beings early and remains a struggle.
A Chihuahua is such a little dog, even a small weight change of just 1/2 pound can make a huge difference in the appearance of your dog.
Its naturally small bone structure allows for this breed to become too skinny rather quickly or to visibly show just a small gain.
This section will discuss:
- The ideal weight for the Chihuahua – both males and females
- The details of a smaller, underweight Chihuahua
- Information regarding, larger bone structured dogs or overweight dogs
Before we dive in to discuss the issues of weight, let’s remind ourselves of the expected size of this breed per club standards:
AKC (United States): There is no official minimum weight, this dog should not weigh more than 6 lbs (2.7 kg)
UK (The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom): 6 lbs. (2.7 kg) with 4 -6 lbs. (1.8 – 2.7 kg) preferred.
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale – International kennel club with 84 member countries): 3.3 to 6.61 lbs. (1.5 to 3 kg). Chihuahuas that are less than 1.10 lbs. (500 grams) or over 6.61 lbs. (3 kg) are disqualified in show.
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club): 1-6 lbs. (.5-3 kg) but dogs weighing 2-4 lbs. (1-2 kg) are preferred.
As you can see, all countries are in agreement that the maximum weight should be 6 lbs. (or very close to that)
The discrepancies are with the minimum weight. The lowest number we see here is Canada with 1 lb. Though the AKC does not list a minimum weight, most Chihuahuas will be at least 2 lbs.
We will use the range of 2 to 6 lbs. during this discussion so that a point of reference may be made in regard to either undersized or over-sized issues.
Why Chihuahuas Range in Size
When a dog is as small as this breed is (the smallest of all purebreds in the world) a range of 4 lbs. (1.81 kg) can seem like a lot. This gives us some very tiny dogs and some that are more solid and sturdy.
Since height will range from 6-9 inches (15.2 – 22.9 cm), this means that you can have a 4 pound, 6 inch tall Chi and a 6 pound 9 inch Chi that are both are the ideal weight.
On the opposite side of the coin, you can have 2 Chihuahua that are both 3 pounds. If one is 6 inches and the other 9, then the first may be at a proper weight and the 2nd will fall too far under for proper health.
With so many bredding programs and each breeder focusing on different aspects, while most reputable breeders do try to stick to and improve the standard, there are many different body structures that this breed can have.
Some will be long legged and others short legged. Some will be long and narrow; others more of a square shaped. Appleheads tend to have a shorter body; Deer heads tend to have a longer back and overall shape.
The elements that will affect a Chihuahua’s final adult size are:
A dog may be small, medium or large boned. The entire skeletal structure will vary from dog to dog. This is a physical trait that is hereditary. When breeding, a smaller male should be paired with a larger female. This is done so that the female will (hopefully) have proper width in the hip and pelvic area giving her a safer pregnancy and delivery.
This resulting litter will have genes from both dogs (and up to 5 generations back). Therefore, there will be some smaller pups that pick up their size from the sire, some larger ones that inherit the bigger frame of the dam and some that fall in-between.
Fat to Muscle Ratio
The adult Chihuahua should have a lean and sleek appearance. With this said, there are many that are underweight and some that are overweight. When body frame size is put aside, the muscle to fat ratio will come into play in the same way that it does for humans.
Chihuahuas That Fall Outside of the Expected Range
A Chihuahua will generally weigh between 2 and 6 pounds (.9 kg-2.7 kg) depending on body structure. One must remember that 6 lbs. maximum applies to show dogs and therefore pets that weigh a bit more than this guideline states is not necessarily a negative thing.
Conversely, weighing less than expected can make for a fragile dog that is prone to both injury and medical issues.
There are plenty of larger, solidly structured Chihuahua dogs that are perfectly healthy. There are also those that are carrying too much fat and are overweight in an unhealthy way.
A Chihuahua may be bigger than expected for one of several reasons:
1) Purposeful Breeding. A breeder who has experienced the loss that often comes with breeding very tiny dogs may have decided to aim for the higher end of the spectrum; thus producing dogs that have better overall health and are not as susceptible to injury and health problem that plague tiny dogs.
Often the goal is to produce pet quality dogs for loving homes. Not being bred for show, the higher weight is acceptable and allows owners to bypass the somewhat treacherous path of caring for an extremely small dog.
Many owners who have had big Chihuahua and are looking for a second dog will actively seek out a larger-framed Chihuahua. Families find that 6, 7 or 8 pound Chi are more appropriate for families with young children.
2) Throwbacks. Even with careful pairing of two Chihuahua that fall in the breed standard’s weight range, there can be an unexpected ‘throwback’ puppy. This occurs when genes skip back many generations.
The puppy will not have the physical traits of his parents; he will instead take after great or great-great grandparents. Somewhere in the bloodline there may have been a heavier, larger dog whose genes pop up now and again.
3) Technically Overweight. No matter the body frame, a Chihuahua can tend to gain weight as he ages. This breed is considered to be a senior at the age of 8 years old. With a life span of 14 to 18 years, this leaves may years of senior living that can affect the weight of the dog.
Whether due to health issues, a lack of motivation on the part of the owners or a combination of both, the older, senior Chihuahua may not receive as much exercise as his younger counterpart.
There is also a natural slowing down of the body and even with daily walks, a senior only needs approximately 37 calories per pound of body weight compared to an adult’s 40 calories.
This is often a simple matter of too much consumption and not enough activity. Over time, there may be a gradual weight gain; it will be mere ounces however these will add up. When the dog reaches the 10 or 11 year mark, a 2 pound gain (or more) can then be quite obvious.
Heavy, fat Chihuahuas tend to show this in the stomach area; though if enough fat reserves add up it can be dispersed over the entire body.
Even though – per most breed standards around the world- the lower end of expected weight will be roughly 2 lbs. (.9 kg), this does not mean that a 2 lb. or even 3 lb. Chihuahua is at a healthy weight.
If the dog has a medium to large body frame, those 2 or 3 pounds may simply not be enough sustain the dog.
Additionally, a very tiny 1 or 1.5 pound Chihuahua – even with a very small skeletal frame – will often be dangerously small and prone to many issues.
A Chihuahua may be smaller than expected for one of several reasons:
1) Purposeful breeding. Just as there are those that strive for the higher end of the standard, there are many more whose goal it is to reach the lower end.
When two very small dogs are paired together, this may result in puppies that are even tinier than the dam and sire. In addition, unfortunately there is a market for miniature Chihuahuas.
These are not a recognised dog breed or even an official variation. They are, however, very small dogs weighing in under 2 pounds. While they are, admittedly, are adorable, they are very frail. Bones are exceedingly thin and prone to sprains and breaks.
This also applies to the cartilage that surrounds the windpipe, with many tiny Chihuahua developing collapsed trachea. With trauma being the 2nd leading cause of death (second only to cardiovascular disease) these unnaturally miniature dogs will be susceptible to a wide range of injury.
2) Metabolism and Food Tolerance. With this breed, it is not uncommon for a dog to have a fast metabolic rate. When this is combined with a dog that is a fussy eater or one that has an intolerance for a wide range of foods, this can cause the dog to struggle in regard to weight gain.
This may be noticed during the growth stages of being a puppy or once reaching adulthood, the dog may have a hard time maintaining his weight.
During the first year, a Chihuahua puppy will be gaining weight and growing in both height and width. While there will be an upward trend, it is normal for there to be starts and stops. Some weeks may bring a drastic increase in growth and other weeks will be slower.
Since weight gain is not linear, weight charts can only offer a general guideline. Here is a quick reference:
Average Chihuahua Weight Range Based on Age
Birth: 2.5 to 5.5 ounces
2 Weeks: 5 to 13.5 ounces
4 Weeks: 7 ounces to 1 pound, 8 ounces
8 Weeks: 1 lb. to 2 lb. 6 oz.
3 Months: 1 lb.6 oz to 3 lb. 5 oz.
4 Months: 1 lb. 14 oz. to 4 lb. 6 oz.
6 Months: 2 lbs. 7 oz. to 5 lb. 10 oz.
Fully Grown Adult Chihuahua: 2-6 lbs. (.9 kg-2.7 kg)
Assessing Weight – (Under or Over) for Adult Chi
There are 7 stages of the rib area that can give you a good idea in regard to proper weight. Each stage will tell you to what degree your Chihuahua has a weight issue. Look at the rib cage to notice:
Can You See The Ribs From Across the Room? Do you see other bones that seem to be trying to poke out? If so, this is a sign of a dog being extremely emaciated. This point of being underweight is usually only seen in cases of severe animal neglect.
Can You See The Ribs When Sitting Near Your Dog? If the rib cage area is clearly visible from a sitting distance, this is a sign of the dog not having enough healthy reserves of fat. The dog will be classified as being severely underweight.
Can You Be Side-by-Side With Your Chihuahua and See the Ribs? If there is quite a tuck in the waist area with ribs showing when close, the dog would be categorised as thin.
Ribs are not Visible, Yet When Touching the Ribs, Do You Feel a Thin Layer of fat and tissue? When looking from above, you can clearly see where the waist begins and ends. Looking from the side, the tummy area seems tucked in a bit. This is the perfect weight.
If You Try to Feel the Ribs, Do You Have a Difficult Time Due to A Thick Fat Layer? From above, you can see a minor difference in where the waist ends and begins, but it is not distinct. There is not much of a tuck or none at all from the side. In this case, a dog is overweight.
Is it Very Difficult or Impossible to Feel the Ribs No Matter What? There is no form of a waist no matter which viewpoint you look from. The dog is technically obese.
Are the Ribs Covered by Obvious Layers of Fat? If a dog waddles instead of sprinting and finds it hard to move about, with clear layers of fat that weigh down the body, the dog is morbidly obese.
What to Do if Your Chihuahua is Underweight
1) Have the Dog Medically Cleared
If your Chihuahua is determined to be underweight, that dog should have a complete medical examination and testing to rule out health issues that could affect the body’s ability to gain and sustain a healthy weight. Conditions to be ruled out include:
- Thyroid issues
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Heart conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Dental issues that cause painful eating
Once medically cleared, this may be a matter of:
Malnutrition – If a portion of the food is being ingested by not digested by the body, it will pass right out without offering any nutritional value. This is often the case with inexpensive dog foods that contain fillers. Dogs that eat cheaper, low-quality foods may appear to be eating a lot, but will struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
This also included the element of making sure that meals provide enough calories. While general guidelines dictate that a puppy needs about 50 calories per pound of body weight and an adult 35 to 40, individual metabolism and activity level may call out for a higher daily calorie intake.
Food intolerance/ Finicky eaters – Choices will be to feed a high quality commercial food or to home cook. If feeding a kibble, low-sodium chicken broth can be drizzled over the meal to make it more appealing.
For very underweight dogs, adding chunks of rotisserie chicken (complete with skin and fat) and sweet potatoes can help a Chihuahua gain a good pound within a few weeks.
Timing of Food – Tiny Chihuahuas that struggle to maintain do better with small meals spread out throughout the day. Add to this some healthy snacks and this breed often does best when the body is consistently fuelled.
2) Have Realistic Expectations & Provide Proper Care
Once a Chihuahua is brought up to what is considered a good weight based on body structure, this may still leave an owner with a very small, fragile dog. For Chihuahuas under 2 lbs (.9 kg) some special care guidelines may need to be put into place:
1) Never use just a collar and leash. With the neck very prone to collapsed trachea, always use a harness
2) Feed 3 meals per day plus snacks to help prevent dips in blood sugar levels
3) Go for 2 or 3 smaller walks per day as opposed to one longer walk that may just be too much for a undersized dog.
4) The dog may be sensitive to temperature changes; particularly the cold. Have the dog wear clothing on chilly days and certainly protect him during the wintertime
5) Handle the dog carefully, making sure that all children are aware of his fragile nature and use proper handling techniques
6) The Chihuahua breed in general is an ‘under-the-foot’ dog and this is even more important to note when the dog is very small.
7) Baths are best done in the kitchen sink as opposed to a full bathtub.
What to Do If Your Chihuahua is Too Heavy
Owners often feel guilty when learning that their dog is overweight due to feeding and activity. There are many small factors that can combine to create such an issue.
Busy schedules, bad weather (especially for those that live in areas that have long, cold winters) and a senior dog’s slowly decreased calorie needs will all influence a dog’s unhealthy weight gain.
Under the guidance of a reputable veterinarian, the goal should be for a slow yet steady weight loss. In general, 1/2 to 1 lb. per month is a reasonable expectation.
This should be done by lowering calorie intake and increasing activity. Lower calories does not necessarily mean less food, just better food. Manufactured treats can be exchanged for wholesome treats such as raw baby carrots. Fresh steamed vegetables can be mixed into meals.
Activity should increase slowly as to not put too much strain on a dog that is already carrying around extra weight. For sedentary dogs, a simple 15 to 20 minute walk per day is a good place to start.
Once a dog is accustomed to daily exercise, this can be increased to two per day. Try to find new areas to explore, which can make increased activity fun for both owner and dog. Be sure to allow for rests and water breaks.
Whether a Chihuahua needs to gain weight or lose it, a gradual approach is best. This breed can become stressed if changes occur too rapidly.
Together with your veterinarian, realistic goals should be established. It is suggested to have a family meeting so that everyone involved in a Chihuahua’s care is on the same page about what changes will be taking place and why those changes are important for the health of the dog.